Super selections & wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
I wanted to share with you some of my favourite records by Manuel Göttsching, who sadly passed away recently…
Manuel is quite rightly considered a hugely important pioneer in the world of electronic music, although first and foremost he was an incredibly talented guitarist. His E2-E4 is only one of the most important pieces of music ever recorded innit!
When I first heard this record, I wasn’t actually hearing this at all. Like most of my generation, my introduction occurred on a sweaty dance-floor sometime in the spring / summer of 1989, via the dreamy Italian house classic, Sueno Latino. I had no idea at the time that it was pretty much completely lifted in its entirety from a 60-minute piece of experimental German music, released 5 years earlier, and which had become a surprise staple in the hands of some of the more adventurous DJs around the world. To be fair, the clues were right there on the label of the record! One early Italian pressing on DFC even names the track, E2-E4. Words can’t really describe how incredible a piece of music this is. Mind-blowing doesn’t come close!
I finally got hold of a copy when a reissue appeared in 1995, buying it from Moonboots at Eastern Bloc. Years later I’d also buy it on CD. It makes sense to have it on CD, as it plays all the way through.
I was lucky enough to see Manuel perform the track live at The Barbican, although it was a bit of a strange day if truth be told. I think I was overcome with jealousy that I hadn’t been at the gig in Hebden Bridge, where I’d heard accounts from multiple friends, that the entire audience got up and danced all the way through! They didn’t get up and dance at The Barbican!!
Die Dominas – Die Dominas – Fabrikneu – 1981
Like many people I guess, I was led to this record via the world of techno, as I first heard the Maurizio (Moritz von Oswald & Mark Ernestus, aka Basic Channel, Quadrant, etc.) version, and its stunning Carl Craig remix, in the early `90s.
It wasn’t until many years later that I eventually found the original version, on this pretty scarce 3 track German 10”, and initially I didn’t even realise it was by Manuel Göttsching, as the credits on the record are pretty scant. It wasn’t until Discogs came into its own as an invaluable database / marketplace that I learnt he was ably assisted by Rosi Muller – who sings on this but also played harp with Ash Ra Temple – and avant garde fashion designer, Claudia Skoda. The record was probably most famous for its sleeve, which was designed by Karl Bartos & Ralf Hutter from that other “quite well known” German electronic music combo, Kraftwerk.
It’s a quite odd E.P., the only one under this alias, and it really comes to life on the track Die Wespendomina, which is a hypnotic, intense, trippy, and weird slice of bouncy electro-pop, with that wonderful “Domina’ vocal refrain just looping over and over. No wonder Maurizio was inspired to cover it.
My copy still has the price in Deutsch Marks on the rear of the sleeve. How much is DM 15.95 in £/€? We, Me and Kelvin Andrews, actually tried to license this track for our second volume of Down To the Sea And Back in 2014. I sent Manuel a friend request on Facebook, and we exchanged messages about it, but sadly we couldn’t come to an agreement, which was a real shame. Thanks for the music, Manuel. It was lovely to talk with you, even if we couldn’t strike a deal.
I`m going to go back a year at a time now…
Ashra – Belle Alliance (feat. Mistral) – Virgin Records 1980
This album is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. There are a few OK tracks. I like the cod-reggae feel of Boomerang, which is quite Balearic. Aerogen also starts well in a propulsive electronic fashion, and Sausalito is a quite nice funky guitar led number, while Kazoo and Code Blue nod toward some plaintive electronics and ambient vibes.
The real gold, however, is left right until the last track, in the shape of the criminally short Mistral, a completely beautiful piece of music. Manuel’s simply gorgeous guitar playing floats atop a bed of haunting synth parts, semi-ambient electronics, with the subtlest electronic percussion creating a wave-like rhythm. I’m pretty sure this was a favourite track of Jose Padilla’s at the Café Del Mar. If not, it should have been. This track should really last about 30 minutes, but sadly, doesn’t even get to 4. Just wonderful music.
Ashra – Correlations – Virgin Records 1979
My two favourite tracks are Club Cannibal and Oasis, but that’s doing this album a slight disservice, as this is a really solid set. Morgana Da Capo and Phantasus also deserve a special mention, with the former being a hauntingly beautiful cut, somewhere between ambient / chillout and the dance-floor, and the later a slice of slo-mo cosmic-funk.
Oasis, though, is another sure-fire Café del Mar classic. A gentle looping synth bass part accompanies another masterclass in beautiful guitar playing from Manuel.
The track that led me to this record, however, is the brilliantly named Club Cannibal. It was Richard Moonboots who first played this to me, completely blowing my mind. It’s an absolute beast of a dance-floor destroyer: what would come to be called “cosmic” or “space disco” in the early noughties, as we all discovered Daniele Baldelli’s tapes, and a whole new eco-system of previously – to us – unknown European dance-floor delights. Layers of guitars are propelled along by a relentless, electronic bass-line, minimal drums, and Manuel lets rip with soaring guitar parts over the top. File alongside Klaus Schulze’s Macksy, but this is better. Made in 1979, most of the records released in the first decade of the current millennium owe this album a huge debt.
Ashra – Blackouts (feat. Shuttle Cock) – Virgin Records 1978
More uniform, of the tracks on Blackouts are based on simple sets of minimal electronic pulses, rhythms, or bass-lines, with Manuel’s incredible guitar playing over the top. As a result, this is probably my favourite of the Ashra albums to just put on and listen to. It’s just gorgeous from start to finish, a proper mood piece – although Lotus Parts I-IV does get a little intense halfway through.
If you had to pick only one track though, it would have to be the utterly sublime Shuttle Cock. By stretching out to almost 9 minutes, it has time to become really immersive and totally hypnotic, with the warm synths and guitars building and building up to a beautiful climax. Blackouts does try to spoil all this slightly by having one of the worst LP sleeves ever designed. I mean what the actual fuck!
Thank you for the music, Manuel.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print